Posts filed under ‘Community Building’
The big slick. What a mess, eh?
So many opinions about what we should do. So many fingers wagging. But unless you are completely off grid, growing all your own food, weaving your own fabric to make your own clothes, and have basically removed yourself from any consumer situation that takes in any way from the planet, you are guilty of this crime. Just like me.
We are all guilty of this crime against the planet, and like the titans of Washington and Wall Street, we will not prosecute ourselves. We humans love to outsource blame to others – because other people are the problem and are the ones who should change, right? 7,000,000,000 +/- humans on the planet, all with fingers pointing at one another. Craaaaaaaaaaaaazy. And yet so funny.
This explosion in-our-faces will not go away. It is a major wake up call, but people want to hit the snooze button and go back to watching CSI. Just like how all the networks went back to entertainment programming immediately after President Obama’s address to the nation, pleading and praying for change.
But when your economy depends on consumption, you can’t ask for conservation. It’s the paradox I testified about years ago when Portland was exploring disaster scenarios and how to mitigate the effects. Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post about advertising in the age of peak oil, and the problem of institutions clinging to antiquated models. (Check out the video on that post from a presentation I made at Clear Channel, at 45:00 in…)
And as much as businesses want customers to keep buying their stuff, income destruction will of course lead to less consumption. It’s just that people like to buy stuff. We built Bright Neighbor as a sustainability network that allows people to lend things to one another rather than consuming new things from stores, and it works great. But perceived Independence is an American value, and many people feel they are independent in choices by shopping at stores. The idea of dependence on neighbors they don’t know yet is a leap for sure. After all, you can’t deeply know or trust everyone. There are predators out there, yes. But a system to build social glue through resource sharing at the neighborhood and hyper-local community level is in place. We are doing what we can to expand Bright Neighbor to more cities right now.
So, in the long run, we all die. That bugs me! I like living, and want a good planet to pass along to my kid and other people’s kids as well. I find that the only way to maintain my own sanity in this crazy crazy world is to accept that it is indeed a crazy crazy world. It always has been. That’s why I have as much fun as I can every day trying to reduce my own personal impact. And I have a long way to go as a recovering oil addict, even after trying for years. There is no self-righteousness, just an attempt to do what I feel is right to try to liberate myself from dependence on oil.
How about you?
We encourage ride-sharing, walking, bike-riding, or public transit to / from our shows! Join up with other Railer fans at http://www.portland.brightneighbor.com.
Sometimes, you have to move beyond the blog – so I went and laid out some thoughts in front of an audience.
For any of you following the Bright Neighbor project…
Recently, we have had amazing breakthroughs in human communications. We have broken the four-minute mile, and the real-time web of living in the moment has arrived. You can now be instantly witnessed around the world by anyone with a modern communications device. There are useful applications for this technology that can be immediately applied to community-building.
By Randy White
@randywhitepdx and @brightneighbor
The authors of a recent PEW Internet Project report write that
” …developments in social networking and internet applications have begun providing internet users with more opportunities for sharing short updates about themselves, their lives, and their whereabouts online. Users may post messages about their status, their moods, their location and other tidbits on social networks and blogging sites “
The rapid spread of Twitter and Facebook adoption these days is mind-blowing. Twenty percent of online adults 18-34 are on Twitter, and even grandmothers are getting onto Facebook. That is a hefty chunk of the population. While tech-savvy money sharks are figuring out how to carve up profits to be made from selling deep-search stats to Tostitos or whoever, I am thinking about how we can use technology at local levels to deal with economic and ecological collapse. The cool part is that we are starting to quickly track our progress and observe how one’s social influence in a community can help to shape other people’s sustainability actions. Imagine when we will track how neighborly people are:
As exciting as these new technology achievements are, we still have real problems to work out. Families are suffering as relationships are becoming more and more strained by financial pressures. Throughout government, business, and communities – our high standards of living have been supported by cheap, easily available energy. President Obama hasn’t told you the super-bad news about our immediate future. In materialistic terms, we have arrived in the gates of hell and now we get to Tweet each other about it. With a second energy shock and major spike in oil prices on the way, communities need to get prepared. Now.
The problem is that even though so many Americans have cell-phones and blinking blue Borg-like communication contraptions glued to their heads, there are still large swaths of communities across America not taking action to build resiliency at hyper-local levels. And if any new political group was able to actually overthrow the existing Democratic / Republican system – who would pave our roads? How does a society run without money? What is money, really?
It seems we are still in shock and awe that things are so messed up, yet so cool at the same time.
As Americans, we subscribe to a social contract that states to be ‘normal’ we must spend time trying to earn this stuff called money. Since we have to constantly chase the stuff to live comfortable lives, it is literally impossible to get to deeply-know all of our neighbors because there is not enough time or desire to do so. On this planet we are physically limited to caring for small tribes of core humans in our lives. We can’t possibly get to know everyone or have them know us back. But, with technology, we have cobbled together ways to build community relationships while tracking local leadership and involvement in communities at the same time.
The significance of this insight is that we can actually report on local neighborhood influence, carbon emissions saved, energy not used, and many other earth-preserving behaviors. For instance, in the following screenshot, you can see I’m communicating with a local neighborhood organizer, a popular radio DJ, a concerned citizen, and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Marketers pay millions of dollars to achieve the kind of free PR, influence, and tracking now easily achieved for free on the Internet. Money aside – If you can get others to pay attention to you, you can improve your sphere of influence at a hyper local level to achieve sustainability. The idea is to be a local leader and use your results to help others at the national level through showcasing your success. Other influential leaders can easily amplify your message, creating near instant consciousness of thousands of individuals.
In order to focus these breakthroughs, I have been experimenting with ways to use Twitter to track items lent out to neighbors and friends, and many upcoming Bright Neighbor 2.0 features will continue to innovate in these areas. In the meantime, here is a 10-step action plan on how Twitter can help people that live in close proximity to one another get to know one another better:
1) Go to your local neighborhood meetings
This may seem so simple that it’s stupid. Get involved! There is a local neighborhood organization that you can join and if you can’t find one, you can start one. This way you can place faces with people you will be connecting with.
2) Create A group and go back to old-school promotions
Being in a rock band helped me learn this one. If you are ready to be a local leader, then go old-school and hit the streets. Putting flyers up at local shops and into people’s hands still works. The constant real-time flow of communications data goes away in seconds, and if someone has calendared one event and learn via Twitter or whatever where other cool people have gathered – they will alter their plans to go where the people are that can help them advance their social status. Offline flyers help build your online reputation to achieve this by putting your group’s Twitter name or hashtag on the flyer and asking neighbors to join your group.
3) Ride sharing
“Can anyone give me a lift downtown? I’m at the corner of SE 39th and Stark.” If you get a big enough group of followers in your neighborhood, that message could score you a lift if your friends are too lazy or broke to come pick you up.
4) Resource locator
“Does anyone have a ladder I can borrow”? The more you know your neighbors, the more people that will follow you and that will see your plea for help when your bushes go wild and need a trimming. With the ability to add pictures and video to Twitter, soon people will be able to discover a person in close proximity who has what they need and communicate in real time to strike a deal.
5) Saving money
“Does anyone have a coupon they can forward for the India Grill?”
Offering people coupons used to be a paper-only option, and times have made it such that there are multiple online methods to save big money on stuff like:
* Health & Beauty
Because that’s the kind of stuff we humans value right now. And in order to keep getting it, we are looking for ways to save money on it. One way is to call out to our social networks to see if anyone can forward access or knowledge of a money-savings deal without everyone becoming annoyed by cheap people looking for deals.
6) Work with your local government
In Portland, the Office of Emergency Management has set up a Twitter feed. If each neighborhood leader subscribed to the emergency feed and vice-versa, top-down communications could mingle with grassroots reporting to keep communications clear in an emergency.
7) Tap into your neighbor knowledge base
My raspberries developed a bunch of ugly yellow spots on them, and with a click of the camera in my phone, I sent out messages to neighbors and friends asking if they knew what the disease was. While I didn’t get a solid answer back on that try, I found out the solution to the by walking next door and asking my 93-year old neighbor instead. Take care of our old-time gardeners!
8) Give help, get help
As technology allows us to define our roles in society, it also helps define each of us because people are judgmental. The more projects you get involved with, and the more people Tweet about them, the better your Karma Card looks. Your actions and activities are now transparent in real-time and the historical record, and people will be able to see how much you give back in addition to asking for help.
9) Showcase your breakthroughs
Don’t just send out a picture of that new rainwater catchment system you built out of spare parts, invite people over to learn from it! We have so much waste in our system, we can repurpose woods and plastics to help retrofit our homes to prepare for climate change. If it’s too expensive to go buy new stuff like solar arrays or hybrid-cars, then we can help each other by teaching useful, sustainable behaviors that we know how to do. Online video has not yet replaced human-to-human team learning.
10) Make people laugh
Because laughing is a part of healing.
Leaked footage of a street interview with me.
So economists are trying to paint a rosy picture, eh? I don’t have access to their data, so let me take a stab at a not-so scientific observation.
If food stamps, social security, and medicare went away tomorrow, what would happen in America? If the supply of oil was disrupted, how would people still earn enough money to pay for the huge spike in prices? How are people expected to pay their mortgages while being told to drive less, buy less, not consume, yet keep their job? If we can’t continue as we were, then who gets what, and why?
And will porn always be free forever, even if the economy completely collapses?
I believe we have entered the era of Friendonomics. This is the time when the snake really begins to chomp on its own tail, and relationships turn economic as people’s personal social networks bloom. And whether the friendonomics relationship is either hiring a friend or being hired by a friend, it’s important to see it from both sides of the equation.
HIRED BY A FRIEND
For instance, let’s say you have a friend, and you like them because of (fill in the blank). But right now, you need some dough to pay for stuff, and you offer to help that friend for money.
That is when that friend owns you.
If you make an agreement and take payment for performing some sort of work, your friend either becomes your customer or your boss. Kind of like marriage. But when you charge your friend money for doing a job, you lose something that was there when there was no economic relationship.
HIRING A FRIEND
“Hey buddy, you know I love you, but I was really hoping you could have had it done by now, done it for way less than market rates, and change some stuff too.”
Hiring friends can come naturally as a friend’s work becomes valued with cash or credit. When I have hired friends, I have found myself to be a driven idealist, looking to achieve maximum impact. Whether the job is highly technical or a simple chore, I want it done right. And if you become a boss to your friends, your demands could be viewed by them as a relationship changer. Because if you are in control, then they feel like subordinate rather than a friend, and the level of social understanding between you changes.
HIRING A FRIEND OF A FRIEND
When one of your friends “Knows someone” who can do what you need, it is a gray area of friendonomics. I’m open to interpretation there.
As the economy continues to morph into something different than what it has been before, many people are going to experience all sorts of relationship changes as debts and social media fuel massive friendonomics. We live in a time when on your computer or mobile device you are actively monitoring the lives of people as they live and post stuff online. Even if it’s something trivial like your top 5 favorite albums or your tweet about whatever, we want people to know what’s going on.
And because we are so connected, many new people are available. Your old friends never really go away – they may just be choosing to unsubscribe you from their lives.
And this is why I hate our current system of capitalism. Because if you are doing things for money, you are a slave. And we are all slaves, trying to keep up with all the stuff we bought. Some work less by managing to get others to work for them. As money is no longer available to people, there are bound to be major social upheavals.
This is why before further mayhem ensues, I am training volunteer trainers to help people learn how to use technology like Bright Neighbor and Facebook to build community-based economies. My focus is to continue to work to help people deal with changing living conditions.
So if you get hired by a friend to do a job, perhaps you could work out a deal other than cash, so that your friendonomics relationship isn’t so much as boss/customer as it is friendship/barter.